Achillea millefolium

Guide to Growing Common Yarrow (Lace plant; Nosebleed; Devil's nettle; Thousand leaf; Hundred-leaved grass; Old man's pepper)

Achillea millefolium is an herbaceous plant that is often referred to as Common Yarrow. It has been traditionally used for many herbal remedies such as for healing wounds, use as a tonic, to flavor beer, and as a stimulant.

The Achillea genus contains 85 plants native to temperate regions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Well known members of this genus include A. ageratifolia (Greek yarrow), A. ptarmica (Sneezewort), A. nobilis (Noble yarrow), A. clavennae (Silvery yarrow), and A. ageratum (Sweet yarrow). As a member of the Asteraceae family closely related plant genera include Aster, Bellis, Chrysanthemum, Helianthus, Carthamus, Calendula, Gerbera, Dahlia, and Zinnia.

Gardening wise, one of the great advantages of Achillea millefolium is that it makes a great companion plant. This is because its nectar attracts predatory wasps to the garden; these will then prey on many common garden pasts. Yarrow's aroma also attracts predatory insects such as ladybugs and hoverflies. Not only this but growing the species in the garden will also help to improve soil, especially if the leaves are composted.

Common Yarrow
Mountain Ringlet Butterfly visiting a Common Yarrow plant, photohraph by Irene Grassi.

As a garden plant Achillea millefolium is great for use in a wild garden, in areas of drought (some cultivars are often used as a lawn substitute plant in arid areas), is resistant to deer, and also has a place as part of a butterfly garden. It also makes an attractive dried plant.

Although it has many uses in the garden, many people consider that it is an aggressive weed. This is because it spreads from its rhizomes. Therefore, if you plan to grow Yarrow in your garden it is recommended that you consider its containment in advance of sowing.

Achillea millefolium
Achillea millefolium by Frank Mayfield.

Achillea millefolium Description

Grow Common Yarrow

The common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is an upright or mat-forming herbaceous perennial. It reaches a height of eight to thirty-six inches (20–90 cm), and has a similar spread. They are largely branchless (except at the top).

Achillea carry alternate green leaves. These are aromatic, hairy, lanceolate, sometimes toothed, about two to eight inches long (5–20 cm), and appear in the spring and summer.

Yarrow cultivar 'Pretty Belinda' by David Short.

Flowers are white, yellowish-white, or pink rays (daisy-like), and appear as flattened clusters of 20–40 flowers in the summer. Numerous cultivars are available; these have stronger stems and a more up-right nature, and additional flower colors including bi-colored, cream, yellow, and red.

How to Grow ??

Achillea millefolium Growing and Care Guide

  • Sow Achillea millefolium seeds at a maximum depth of ¼ inch (6 mm) in early spring or the autumn. Seeds require light and a temperature of (15–18°C) to germinate, this typically takes from two weeks to three months.
  • Grows well in zones 3–9. Plants prefer a well-drained soil (will tolerate moist soil) that is poor to average. For best results grow in a loam.
  • Although Achillea are drought-tolerant a light watering during prolonged dry-spells will do them proud.
  • Prefers to grow in a sunny area (will tolerate partial shade) and will thrive in zones 3–9.
  • Cut back plants once they have bloomed to keep them tidy. Plants should be divided every two years in the spring to help maintain shape and vigour.
  • Common problems and pests for Achillea millefolium include stem rot, powdery mildew, rust, and aphids. As stems of non-cultivar common yarrows are quite weak they should be protected from strong winds and heavy rain. Due to their rhizomatous nature they can spread aggressively, so are best grown in a contained area.
  • The combination of grass, yarrow, and water can lead to skin rashes due to photosensitivity, so wear garden gloves if handling plants in the rain.

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